The effect of metformin on breast cancer outcomes in patients with type 2 diabetes

Cancer Med. 2014 Aug;3(4):1025-34. doi: 10.1002/cam4.259. Epub 2014 Jun 18.


Observational data suggest that metformin use decreases breast cancer (BC) incidence in women with diabetes; the impact of metformin on BC outcomes in this population is less clear. The purpose of this analysis was to explore whether metformin use influences BC outcomes in women with type 2 diabetes. Prospective institutional databases were reviewed to identify patients with diabetes who received chemotherapy for stages I-III BC from 2000 to 2005. Patients diagnosed with diabetes before or within 6 months of BC diagnosis were included. Males and those with type I, gestational, or steroid-induced diabetes were excluded. Patients were stratified based on metformin use, at baseline, defined as use at time of BC diagnosis or at diabetes diagnosis if within 6 months of BC diagnosis. Kaplan-Meier methods were used to estimate rates of recurrence-free survival (RFS), overall survival (OS), and contralateral breast cancer (CBC). We identified 313 patients with diabetes who received chemotherapy for BC, 141 (45%) fulfilled inclusion criteria and 76 (54%) used metformin at baseline. There were no differences in clinical presentation or tumor characteristics between metformin users and nonusers. At a median follow-up of 87 months (range, 6.9-140.4 months), there was no difference in RFS (P = 0.61), OS (P = 0.462), or CBC (P = 0.156) based on metformin use. Five-year RFS was 90.4% (95% CI, 84-97) in metformin users and 85.4% (95% CI, 78-94) in nonusers. In this cohort of patients with type 2 diabetes receiving systemic chemotherapy for invasive BC, the use of metformin was not associated with improved outcomes.

Keywords: Breast neoplasms; diabetes mellitus, type 2; metformin; mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / mortality
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin